ATK Audiotek has been the audio production
provider for the Grammy telecast since the
show permanently moved to the Staples
Center in downtown Los Angeles in 2000.
“Having the same crew and infrastructure
helps on the install, for the amount of
time we get,” said Michael Abbott, Audio
Coordinator for the show.
“Audiotek started on Monday. I have a crew
that comes in on Tuesday to pre-cable - there
are 60 mults and fibres - then Wednesday
we have our full install. By the end of the day
we’re fully faxed out and ready to go the next
morning for rehearsals; it’s non-stop from that
“Rehearsing 20-plus separate performances
before the Sunday evening broadcast is
challenging enough,” said Abbott, a veteran
of more than two-dozen Grammy shows. But
the fact that the rehearsals are initially out of
sequence adds a layer of complexity to what he
calls “a Broadway show on steroids.”
Abbott was still receiving amended stage
plots up to the last minute from artists
rehearsing off-site. The audio workflow at the
Grammys has remained largely unchanged
for several years. Basically, the lines from the
stage are split to FOH and monitors for the
audience and artist mixes, and to a pair of
Music Mix Mobile (M3) trucks parked outside
the venue. The music, mixed in 5.1 surround
by Co-Broadcast Music Mixers John Harris and
Eric Schilling in M3’s Eclipse truck, is then fed to
Broadcast Production Mixer Tom Holmes in NEP
Denali’s Summit OB vehicle. Holmes adds the
music mix to the production audio elements,
including on-stage podium and presenter
handheld microphones, and graphics package
playback tracks. Those production audio
elements are also split out to the arena, where
the FOH Production Mixer, ATK’s Vice President
of Special Events, Mikael Stewart, adds them to
the house music mix, created by Ron Reaves,
FOH Music Mixer, seated beside him.
During rehearsals, the live music mix
generated in Eclipse, with Harris and Schilling
typically mixing alternate acts on the Avid
D-Control console, is recorded to a Pro
Tools multitrack session. Each session is then
transferred to M3’s similarly equipped Horizon
truck, where the respective engineer continues
to work offline with the artist’s representatives
to create a production template from which the
eventual live broadcast performance is mixed.
ATK switched over to DiGiCo consoles in
2012 and this year provided an SD10 for Stewart
plus SD7’s with redundant engines for Reaves,
Tom Pesa, the A stage Monitor Engineer,
and Michael Parker, Monitor Engineer for the
B stage. There was one minor addition this
Opposite: The main stage during rehearsals. Below: (L-R) Daft Punk stole the show; Ron Reaves, FOH mixer with his DiGiCo SD7.
year, an SD8-24 positioned backstage at A2
World that enabled an assistant engineer to
more easily oversee signal distribution. Also at
A2, Brian Flanzbaum, M3 Preamp Technician,
manually adjusted the Grace Audio and Aphex
mic amps feeding 160 lines to Horizon outside.
ATK additionally provided two DiGiCo SDRacks - for a total of 14 - that duplicated the
sources from the A and B stages. In previous
years FOH and monitors shared the same head
amps; this year, said Jeff Peterson, ATK System
Designer, Reaves requested discrete control.
“Those are running MADI to Ron’s console,”
said Peterson. “Staying at 48k we get an entire
rack down one MADI cable instead of two.”
Four identical hangs of Harman JBL VerTec
VT4889 line-array cabinets and flown VT4880A
subwoofers, plus additional VerTec delays,
covered the audience of approximately 20,000.
Powersoft K10 amplifiers drove the entire
system, including stage monitors.
New this year was a pair of prototype
subwoofers designed and developed by ATK
in collaboration with consultant Mario Di Cola
of Audio Labs Systems in Italy. Each sub bass
cabinet incorporates a Powersoft M-Force
moving magnet linear motor with a 30-inch
polypropylene cone, driven by a single K10
According to Scott Harmala, ATK’s CTO
and VP engineering: “The motor’s strength
is somewhere in the order of 50 to 60 times
greater than even the best 18-inch driver on the
market. At 25 Hz it has eight dB more output
than two of our double-18-inch subwoofer
The next iteration will incorporate a specially
developed Powersoft amplifier module capable
of delivering 15,000W. The short transmission
line cabinet design will also be reconfigured
so that it can be easily flown and arrayed, and
more efficiently packed into a truck, Harmala
Backstage, another Grammy veteran, RF
guru David Bellamy of Soundtronics, with
assistant Grant Greene, coordinated the
wireless microphone, instrument lines, and
in-ears for the event. Bellamy mapped out the
performances and available channels on what
he calls his “war board.”
Bellamy had surveyed the venue beforehand:
“I know what TV channels we’re going to be
operating in. I flesh that out with the frequency
coordination program, then I dial up all those
Below (L-R): B stage Monitor Engineer, Mike Parker behind his DiGiCo console; David Bellamy and Grant Greene took care of the wireless microphones for the spectacular evening.
frequencies and see if they’re legitimate in this
room,” he said.
Greene reported: “We’ve got 44 channels
of microphones, 20 channels of guitars, 20
channels of in-ear monitors, and over 200
frequencies of communications for PL codes.”
Communications are managed at a separate
For the third consecutive year, all of the
artists and bands who performed using in-ear
monitors on the telecast used the company’s
PSM 1000 Personal Monitor System.
Shure vocal mics were in abundance on the
stage. Jay Z helped get the party started with
his Shure UHF-R wireless microphone system,
and was soon followed by Shure endorser
Hunter Hayes (UR2 transmitter with SM58
capsule); Robin Thicke (UR2/SM58); Keith
Urban and Gary Clarke Jr. (UR2/SM58); Shure
endorser Imagine Dragons (UR2/KSM9HS),
who performed with Kendrick Lamar (UR2/
SM58), and The Highwaymen (UR2/SM58). The
all-star Daft Punk performance featured Pharrell
Williams and Stevie Wonder (UR2/SM58); then
Nate Ruess (UR2/SM58), who performed with
P!nk; Ringo Starr (UR2/SM58); Chicago (UR2/
Beta 58); and endorser Sara Bareilles (UR2/
KSM9), who performed with Carole King (UR2/
SM58). Shure endorser Kacey Musgraves (a twotime winner on the night) performed on a Shure
UR2/Beta 57A.
Bellamy also reported: “All the horns were
using Shure UR1 on high power in spectrum
with a high noise floor; and the equipment
worked perfectly.”
On a satellite stage in the audience, Lorde
sang into a wired SM58. Nine Inch Nails front
man Trent Reznor as well as John Legend and
Paul McCartney all opted for wired Beta 58’s.
John Harris, in the M3 truck, commented:
“For this years’ show, Eric Schilling and I
discussed using the Beta 181 on Lang Lang’s
pianos. Combined with the A75M clamps, they
provided a great solution for us, both sonically
and aesthetically.” The pianist performed with
Metallica, and used a Super 55 BRC, in one of
the Grammy Awards show’s signature artist
P!NK, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Madonna,
Beyoncé, Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert and
Queens of the Stone Age all appeared on-stage
with Sennheiser microphones and wireless
systems. P!NK, for example, used a Sennheiser
HSP 4 cardioid capsule on a custom headset
before switching to a Sennheiser SKM 2000
transmitter with a custom MD 9235 capsule.
Bellamy deployed 22 channels of Sennheiser
wireless during the show and had several
Sennheiser EM 3732-II radio frequency receivers
in his rack backstage. “I am using channels
62 and 67 because of the high number of
RF devices in the show - these are the only
receivers that will hit these upper range
frequencies on the market, and I really need
them,” he explained.
Two channels were dedicated to show
host LL Cool J, also the star of the CBS hit
show ‘NCIS Los Angeles’, who made use of a
Sennheiser SKM 5200 transmitter coupled with
an MD 5235 dynamic microphone, in tandem
with an SK 5212-II bodypack transmitter.
A combination of Sennheiser MKH 416
shotgun and Neumann KM 184 condenser
microphones brought the sound of the crowd
into the mix. “We use the MKH 416’s on the
front line, and the KM 184’s as surround mics,”
explained Production Mixer Tom Holmes.
“We always use these microphones because
they sound great and don’t get in the way
of the show. Our ultimate goal is to have
listeners at home feel like they are in the same
Audio-Technica had a strong showing on the
backline, with various artists making use of the
AT4080 phantom-powered bidirectional ribbon
mic on guitars; AT4050 multi-pattern condenser
on guitars and bass; AT4040 cardioid condenser
on overheads; AE2500 dual-element cardioid
instrument mic on kick drum; AE5100 cardioid
condenser instrument mic on hi-hat and ride
cymbals; AE5400 cardioid condenser on rotary
speaker top; ATM650 dynamic instrument mic
on snare; and ATM350 cardioid condenser clipon microphones for the toms.
Radio frequency interference is minimal on
the arena floor, according to Greene: “We are
below ground, with 60 ft of concrete between
here and the outside world, and the glass is RF
reflective.” But an unannounced news crew can
certainly cause problems. “We’ve been chasing
them all week; it only takes one person to shut
a whole show down.”
With six of the performances taking place
out in the house, allowing time for set changes
on the main stages, Soundtronics deployed
its Phoenix Phase Four antenna system, as in
previous years. “We’re running 11 zones: 10 out
in the house and the eleventh for the Pauley
Perrette segments,” said Greene. Perrette, an
actress from the CBS primetime show ‘NCIS’,
conducted backstage interviews with artists and
presenters between performances.
“The stage is basically the same
configuration each year, but it always changes
a little bit in the final weeks of preparation,
because they start getting requests and / or
demands from different producers and bands,”
reported Bob Hughes, Senior Sales Executive for
All Access Staging and Productions, and VP of
the company’s proprietary Versa Staging.
The art department for the Grammy Awards
show - art directors Alana Billingsley and Kristen
Merlino, augmented for the second consecutive
year by Matt Steinbrenner - also handles the
Golden Globes Awards telecast, Hughes noted.
Because of the timing of the Winter Olympics
the Grammy telecast was moved forward this
year, leaving less time than usual between the
two awards shows.
“The band looks happened the final week
of preparation after the Golden Globes, before
the Grammys loaded in. I think we completed
the drawings for the stage after the trucks were
loaded on Friday night; our load-in was Sunday.”
Based on experience, Hughes said: “We had to
send enough gear to overcome any hurdles.” All
Access is busy for the entire week leading up to
the Grammy Awards show, said Hughes. “We
also do MusiCares, and this year on top of that
was the Beatles special.”
The Recording Academy’s charitable
MusiCares Foundation annually honours an
artist - this year, Carole King - with a tribute
concert the night before the Grammy broadcast
that features many of the performers from the
awards show. Some of those performers also
stayed on to record the TV special marking the
50th anniversary of the arrival of The Beatles in
the United States, which was produced in the
LA Convention Center, located next-door to the
Staples Center.
“One of my partners at All Access also
handles the Grammy Celebration [the Recording
Academy’s official afterparty],” hughes added:
“So we had between 12 and 15 semi-trailers full
of gear in downtown LA during Grammy week.”
The Grammy stage typically occupies one
end of the arena. “The stage is configured so
that it fills every nook and cranny around it,
along with a ramp and runway going upstage to
Below: John Harris in the Music Mix Mobile (M3) truck which handled the outside broadcast; A FOH teamshot backstage at the Staples Center.
be able to load gear,” he explained.
All Access has been supplying the stage
ever since the height was raised to seven ft,
in order to provide clearance for artists and
technicians, six or seven years ago. “They like
the fact that our structure allows them to have
clear walkways and tech space areas under the
stage. They use that for talent entry, tech areas,
loading people on lifts, special effects, and gags
that live under there.”
Hughes has been working on the Grammys
for many years, but for the first six years only
provided the rolling risers for the backline
equipment. The late Bob Keene, one of
television’s more prolific production designers,
liked the rock ‘n’ roll look of his risers, Hughes
“But when I started doing the main stage
there was a change in the art world. Brian
Stonestreet ended up being the Production
Designer when Bob passed away. They went a
little more artsy with the steel deck packages
that John Bradley provides, he’s the staging
supervisor on the job.” Bradley supplied the
deck until it went to seven ft.
Full Flood President Robert Dickinson was
the Lighting Designer on the show, with the
firm’s Jon Kusner acting as Lighting Director.
“We are the head of ‘Team Lighting’ because
these productions never occur without a lot of
people,” observed Dickinson.
As he also noted: “These are big hybrid
projects and they require a lot of vendors.”
especially with this year’s schedule, which
moved the Grammys to the week following the
most-watched sports event of the year. “How
do you gather around 1,700 lights and put
them into an arena at the same time that the
Super Bowl is loading out and they’re loading
in American Idol?” he pondered. “It’s a huge
amount of gear that needed to be in many
locations all at the same time.”
Entertainment technology specialist PRG
Production Resource Group provided a broad
assortment of Philips Vari-Lite fixtures including
175 VL5 Washes, 170 VL5Arc Washes, 150
VL3K Spots, 20 VL3500 Spots, 110 VL3500
Washes, 16 VL3500 Wash FX’s, and six
VL3515LT Spot luminaires. PRG also supplied
18 of its proprietary Bad Boy CMY Spot hybrid
automated luminaires, 75 Clay Paky Sharpys,
175 Leko Spots, 350 Barco Versa TUBE linear
LED fixtures, and 110 Martin Professional Atomic
Strobes. Followspots included seven Ballantyne
Strong Gladiator 3000’s, four Ballantyne Strong
Super Trouper Long Throws, and six Lycian M2
units. A total of eight Reel EFX DF-50 Diffusion
Hazers were available on request to add stage
Specials for specific band looks included
another 20 Clay Paky Sharpys, 10 MoleRichardson 10,000 Big Eye Fresnels with Martin
Professinal MAC Auras fitted inside, 36 generic
LED Strobes, 10 Coemar PAR Lite LED’s, 76
Solaris LED Flares, and 36 GLP impression X4
LED Wash fixtures.
PRG also brought in six of the company’s
Best Boy 4,000 Spots for positioning in the
‘mosh pit‘ for a shadow gag. Additionally, 40
Philips Vari-Lite VL3000’s hung on new FOH
trusses. Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s performance
Below: Metallica’s James Hetfield and virtuoso pianist Lang Lang; Production Mixer Tom Holmes in the hot seat.
included Chauvet Professional Nexus 4x4 highoutput LED panels (which also featured heavily
in the Pepsi Grammy Half Time Show TV advert).
According to Lighting Director Andrew
O’Reilly, a veteran of “between 16 and 18”
Grammy shows: “I ran a PRG V676 [control
console] and controlled most of the stage
rig - all of the overhead lighting and all of the
back wall of lights. I also had a lot of the floor
He added: “There was another V676 run by
Harrison Littman. He controlled mostly the front
of house rig, all the stuff we used to light the
audience, and all the perimeter lighting. He also
picked up a lot of the band addition stuff.”
There were four V676 desks in total:
“We like to have a backup!” said O’Reilly.
Lighting Director Patrick Boozer operated a
pair of ETC Eos Ion consoles. “He controlled a
variety of things, including any conventional
instrumentation, of which there was actually
very little, some basic audience light, and some
band elements. He also controlled all of the
strobes for the show,” said O’Reilly.
Typically on the Grammy show an artist gets
90 minutes to two hours on stage for rehearsal,
including soundcheck, said O’Reilly. “But two
of the acts, the opening by Beyoncé and Jay Z,
and the closing Nine Inch Nails performance,
required extensive programming and rehearsals
off-site, with the artists and their own lighting
departments. That typically doesn’t happen. So
boards were brought in to execute what they
had programmed and to further refine it once
we were in the Grammy environment.” Both
acts used MA Lighting grandMA2 control desks,
he enhtused.
Metallica brought along their own laser show,
courtesy of London-based ER Productions. The
song they performed, One, also featured lasers provided by ER - on tour.
According to ER director Marc Webber: “We
supplied what we’d normally use on tour: six
high-powered white light OPS scanning lasers
and two of our special OPS Taipan gold lasers,
which were rigged really high in the lighting
What was special was that ER made 20
special red ‘burst boxes’. Webber added: “Each
fixture has a 1W red diode and burst grating
and takes DMX in and out, which allows you to
put a laser into the audience in a safe manner.”
The design used was essentially the tour
programming, modified on-site, he said.
“There’s never really much time on shows
like this so we had to do it in visualisation first.
The Grammys were really helpful; they did give
us time one evening with extra crew so we
could get what we wanted out of it.”
But what was really special, said Webber,
was that ER was able to supply the lasers at
very short notice, and managed to get the rig
signed-off by the fire marshal: “We had all the
right measuring and test equipment to prove it
Below: (L-R) Kasey Musgraves performed country songs for the live audience; Imagine Dragons’ Dan Reynolds wowed audiences with his dramatic energy; Mike Parker in the monitor position; The
venue was lit by rental company PRG’s lighting stock.
was safe.”
Dickinson, who has designed everything
from Olympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies
to the gamut of televised award shows, noted
that a couple of factors outweigh all others.
“Number one, we have to do a television
broadcast. That includes a bunch of mechanics,“
Dickenson continued, “The first is, we have to
have enough exposure to be able to broadcast a
show. Second, what is the scenery about?”
But the defining signature look of an event
is not dictated solely by lighting and scenery, he
noted. “Screen content, graphics, and a lot of
other aspects all have to be harmonised.”
While once upon a time artists would
simply show up at the Grammys and perform,
these days they might be accompanied by
a professional lighting set designer, such as
Leroy Bennett. He told TPI: “We’re at a point
where probably 60% of the concepts for
music artists’ performances are offered by our
design team, and 40% are a negotiation, and
an understanding of the goals of the artist.
But I think that dialogue, even though it’s
only 40% of the creative, occupies 95% of the
time. Because the artists that really want to say
something are going to obviously need the most
The Grammy production typically features a
massive backdrop of screens, and that too has
become a part of the design discussions, said
Dickinson. “There’s an ongoing conversation as
to how much to depend on them, who’s going
to do the content, and then how we realistically
modify the content. The screens, lighting and
cameras are no longer three independent
areas - they have to be tied together in a big
Ultimately, said Bennett, there were several
challenging performances this year: “Beyoncé
was incredibly challenging. Nine Inch Nails
required moving audience members out of the
way to put in lights so we could capture these
big shadows, and that was quite challenging.”
Daft Punk was astoundingly challenging; you
wouldn’t know it to look at it. Their stage set,
a mock-up of a recording studio that morphed
into a dance club, was technically challenging,
agreed O’Reilly. “Every surface, every line was
covered in Flex Neon, a bendable LED tape.
There were probably over 100 individually
controlled pieces.”
The set arrived in numerous sections,
recalled O’Reilly. “There was a ceiling that flew
in, there were walls that flew in separately, and
there were roll-in pieces. All the pieces had to
get on stage and then be connected together.
“In the running of the show I believe there
were 5.5 minutes to set that up. We didn’t think
it was going to happen, to be honest, because
it did not come together in the appropriate
amount of time during dress rehearsals.”
Nine Inch Nails’ performance involved the
band’s own screen backdrops and content.
“What they wanted to do really did not make
for easy television from many perspectives,”
Dickinson commented. “One is the amount of
setup time, the other is exposure differences.
The unfortunate thing about screens is that
they basically reduce contrast in the television
broadcast, because you have this gigantic thing
that is nothing but luminosity.”
But longtime Grammy show Executive
Producer, Ken Ehrlich has always encouraged
a spirit of collaboration, and commented: “I
thought that the compromise we achieved
allowed for it looking on television the way
that someone seeing Nine Inch Nails live would
think, that’s pretty spectacular, and completely,
radically different from anything I’ve ever seen.”
Queens of the Stone Age, performing with
Below: Lorde performed and won a coveted Grammy for Best Pop Solo Performance; Beyoncé and Jay-Z performed together, lit with Chauvet Professional Nexus 4x4 fixtures.
Nine Inch Nails in another mash-up, “had
screen content that was absolutely brilliant,
but unless it was shot from a very specific
angle it made absolutely no sense whatsoever,”
Dickinson added. Such specific design demands
a conversation before the event in order to be
effective, he said.
What makes it interesting for Dickenson
as a designer is “not just to facilitate a bunch
of gear to show up, but also to collaborate to
make it viable, and realistic, and still maintain
the integrity the artist wants,” said Dickenson.
“What is refreshing, and important, is when a
group of people - including the artist, if they’re
so inclined - get together and develop a conceit
or an approach that is distinct within the body
of a three-and-a-half-hour broadcast.”
The Recording Academy® / © 2014